I have been thinking a lot about the importance of the groups that we meet along our lives, and in our role inside each one of them. Be these groups religious, esoteric, philosophical, or more practical in nature, promoting charity initiatives, applying healing techniques, or teaching something, they are the spinal cord from our journey.
It is common to find people with a history of passing through several groups that have failed - for real or apparently - in sustaining their initial goal. Usually the reason for that is very simple: the individuals, considered in isolation, are amazing people, but the small share of vanities, pride, prejudices and the recognition desires that each one brings to the group, put together, start triggering conflicts that degrade the relationships and make them unsustainable. This may reflect on the corruption of the initial values, or even in the group dissolution.
This result can be different if we keep a few things in mind. In this article we go through several excerpts to deepen our understanding about what is the relationship between our individuality and the groups we live in.
The two excerpts below were taken from the book "Practical Occultism" by Blavatsky, and figure in a list of 12 requirements expected from disciples willing to ingress in the Fraternity:
The upasaka while studying must take care to be united as the fingers on one hand. Thou shalt impress upon their minds that whatever hurts one should hurt the others, and if the rejoicing of one finds no echo in the breasts of the others, then the required conditions are absent, and it is useless to proceed.None can feel the difference between himself and his fellow-students, such as "I am the wisest," "I am more holy and pleasing to the teacher, or in my community, than my brother," etc., — and remain an upasaka. His thoughts must be predominantly fixed upon his heart, chasing therefrom every hostile thought to any living being. It (the heart) must be full of the feeling of its non-separateness from the rest of beings as from all in Nature; otherwise no success can follow.
About them, Leadbeater wrote in the book "The Masters and the Path":
The moral and ethical regulations are familiar to us, and so is the insistence upon the necessity of perfect harmony and mutual understanding among those disciples who have to learn and work together. It is to this latter object that most of the rules here quoted are directed, and in the case of a group of students its importance can scarcely be exaggerated. In Western life we have insisted so strongly upon individualism, and upon the undoubted right of each person to live his own life so long as he does not incommode other, that we have to a large extent forgotten the possibility of a really intimate union. Instead of being united as the fingers of one hand, we live together as a number of marbles in a bag, which is far from ideal from the inner point of view.
Looking now at DK teachings, we see one more time this exhortation to the dedication to the group. The following excerpt refers to the rule IX (from XII) which must be followed by those who aspire to initiation, and can be found in the book "Initiation, Human and Solar":
Let the disciple merge himself within the circle of his other selves. Let but one colour blend them and their unity appear. Only when the group is known and sensed can energy be wisely emanated.One thing all disciples and applicants for initiation have to do is to find that particular group of servers to which they belong on the inner plane, to recognise them upon the physical plane, and to unite with them in service for the race. This recognition will be based upon:—a. Unity of aim.
b. Oneness of vibration.
c. Identity in group affiliation.
d. Karmic links of long standing.
e. Ability to work in harmonious relation.Superficially, this may appear one of the easiest of the rules, but in practice it is not so. Mistakes are easily made, and the problem of working harmoniously in group alignment is not so simple as it may appear. Egoic vibration and relationship may exist, yet the outer personalities may not harmonize. It is the work, then, of the applicant to strengthen the grip of his Ego upon his personality, so that  the esoteric group relation may become possible upon the physical plane. He will do this by the disciplining of his own personality, and not by the correction of his brothers.
When I started reading this rule, my first reaction was to think that if I don't go along well with someone in the physical plane, this person does not belong to my inner group of servers, as I would recognize them by our "ability to work in harmonious relation", and therefore I should keep looking for my true companions. But a very clear alert is made by DK: that harmonious relation is egoic, and not necessarily from the personality. It is our task "to strengthen the grip of our Ego upon our personality" so that harmonious relation can be established here - this is an inner effort, to discipline our personality, and not external, of correcting our brothers and sisters.
We quoted several excerpts from theosophical authors, but it is interesting to notice that the focus in the group development is not only found in this school of thought. As examples, we see the work for religious congregations, or excerpts like the description by Sri Aurobindo, while talking about the principles of Integral Yoga, designed by him:
The third characteristic deals with the Collective Yoga, and is one of the main points for the realization of a work truly aimed towards divine realization. The objective Integral Yoga looks for isn't personal acquisition, but also something for the Earth Consciousness. No doubt this is a harder process: the work becomes more complicated, more complex, requiring a greater strength, a bigger extension and more patience, a bigger tolerance and persistence; this is because you will extend yourself towards the others, the group. If everyone does that, we will be in the ideal path, we will form a single body, one personality, working at the same time for itself and for the others, without distinction.
Lets finish with another declaration by DK, taken from the book "Esoteric Psychology":
Let me remind those I reach through these books that the main result I look for is one of group co-operation and understanding, and not that of individual benefit. By studying and reading with care, a group interplay is set up, the group becomes more closely integrated, the units in it more closely linked together and as a group more closely blended in the unfolding Plan of the Great Ones. We are building and planning for the future and for humanity, and not for the personal unfoldment of any particular aspirant. The individual growth is of no tremendous significance. The formation and development of a band of pledged aspirants, trained to work together and to respond in unison to a teaching, is of real moment to those of us who are responsible for the training and for the preparation of the group of world disciples who will function with freedom and power in a later cycle. (...) We are training men and women everywhere so that they can be sensitive to the Plan, sensitive to their group vibration, and thus able to co-operate intelligently with the unfolding purpose. It is a mistake to think that the Plan is to train aspirants to be sensitive to the vibration of a Master or to the Hierarchy. That is but incidental and of minor importance.It is for the purpose of training aspirants so that group awareness may be developed that these books have been written. Recognize clearly that you personally do not count, but that the group most surely does.
In the end, everything is related to discipline. Discipline defined as "the decision, free and sovereign, of exercising our will to honor the commitments we made". When we start our search for knowledge, we usually don't know what our actions may provoke, or our responsibility in the creation of the reality we live in. But in a short time this knowledge starts to bring us a new responsibility that cannot be ignored.
I believe that allied to discipline, this sense of responsibility is one of the most important things we have to solidify on the path we chose - the responsibility for ourselves, for our children, for our brothers and sisters, be they by blood or by choice. And the main reflection of this comprehension can be seen not in the perfect execution of a ritual, or in the respect for a priest, but in the small scenes from our daily lives: in our choice of words, in our sentiments, in the unnecessary criticism, in the moments we procrastinate just because we are lazy. This affects our energy patterns, and from the moment we start some training to develop our mental power and the capacity to focus our will, those small slippages become more harmful and affect more than we usually notice, both in ourselves and in those around us. We must remain disciplined at all times, to keep ourselves in the path we committed to. We will surely fail over and over again - we are not Adepts, our control over the personality is still not perfect, nor is our Ego fully evolved. But our imperfections should point to the path of self improvement, and not justify our shortcomings.
It is hard to leave aside our personality to give the group the necessary importance. The concepts of unity and individuality are mixed in our minds, and expressions such as "I believe that nothing exists beyond unity" reflect the paradox we experience without realizing it. We say that everything is a great unity, but from a dual point of view! This way of expressing ourselves is a necessity as we are still conditioning our personality to respond to the Ego. But this shows how much we need to be aware of this duality and our goal. Only then can we make the decisions that will benefit our soul and not just feed our personality.